So recently with Bearcast I mixed a couple of songs for the Watchfrogs for our Queen City Sessions. I took this opportunity to prove some of my friends wrong. Some of my friends claim that to “Really” produce music you “Need” to buy plugins of all sorts. I completely disagree with this! Now don’t get me wrong I am someone who buys a lot of plugins. Some may even call me an addict, here are a few of the plugin packages I own…
• Waves Gold Bundle
• Waves Studio Classics Bundle
• Waves Eddie Kramar Series
• Waves Classic Compressors
• Waves Aphex Aural Exciter, Abbey Road Plates
• Waves InPhase, Reel ADT, Scheps 73, IR-1
• Soundtoys Everything Package
• Slate Everything Bundle
• Native Instruments Komplete 11 Ultimate
• Izotope RX6
• Ik Multimedia T-Racks MAX
Queen City Sessions – Watchfrogs
But on this most recent project I used NONE of these plugins. Instead I used Free plugins to mix the whole song. The DAW I used this time around was Logic Pro X. The reason being is because in Logic you can categorize and make your own plugin menus. So I made a Menu called “Free Plugins” to make sure I only picked from there.
I will be doing a Top 5 Free plugin list with details and then I will post the rest of the plugins as honorable mentions and what I use them for.
1. Tokyo Dawn Labs – VOS SlickEQ
The first plugin I have to mention is possibly the most free plugin ever made. The VOS Slick EQ is a 3-Band EQ with shelving as an option for the outer 2 bands and a high pass filter. I typically use this plugin to add bottom and/or add shine and suck out gross sounding mids in a track. It’s also one of the only FREE plugins that features presets, which is great for those who are starting out! The Saturation option has 4 “Colors”, that I’ll use for different applications. The saturation feature alone is an amazing selling point on this FREE plugin. Here are the settings I used for my Kick In Track. This Plugin was used on the Kick In,
Download Link: http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-vos-slickeq/
2. Klanghelm – MJUCjr
This plugin is an amazing compressor with some tasty color. The settings are simple, sort of similar to an 1176 but slightly different. The only 3 controls are “Compress”, Make-Up, and Time Constants. Note there is no ratio control. The Compress is essentially the threshold control but a few other variables are in the works with this parameter is pushed. The Make-Up simply lets you turn up the output for the compressed signal. And for Time Constants there’s only three options which determine how fast your attack and release time are for the compression. I typically try not to use the “auto” because it gives me a taste I’m looking for. I absolutely love this plugin, I use it ALL the time on mixes along side all my other plugins. It’s simply a great cmopressor. Here are my settings for the MJUCjr on the Lead Vocal. This plugin was used on the Kick In, the Kick Click, Snare Top, Bass DI, Lead Vocal and Background Vocal.
Download Link: https://klanghelm.com/contents/products/MJUCjr/MJUCjr.php
3. Tokyo Dawn Labs – Nova
The fact that this plugin is FREE completely blows my mind. This is Dynamic EQ. What that means is you compress a signal only at certain frequencies. This is great for letting your Bass Guitar be able to move and play riffs, while keeping the low end of the bass in tack. Nova has 4 bands you can use as a regular EQ with gain, frequency, and Q controls for each band as well as high pass and low pass filters and the outer 2 bands are able to be shelfs. Then once you click “Threshold” you open up the compressor complete with threshold, ratio, attack, and release times. The user interface is nothing to joke around with either! It includes a frequency spectrum analyzer you can turn on or off. You can even BLEND in the compressed signal with the dry signal for parallel processing. This plugin is a no brainer. I’ll typically use this as a way to maintain and “squash” low-end on bass guitars and I’ll use it as a De-Esser, compressing the sibilance range on vocals. Download it now. It’s awesome.
Download Link: http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-nova/
4. Ignite Amps – PTEQ-X
This free plugin simulates a Pultec EQ, which is a famous vintage EQ. The EQ features the “Normal” version of the Pultec as well as the “Midrange” version along with high pass and low pass filters. It’s got a great color and does a good job at giving definition to your low end. These are my settings for what I’m using it as a lead vocal. I’m also using this on my Kick Bus, and Snare.
Download Link: https://www.kvraudio.com/product/pteq-x-by-ignite-amps
5. Audio Damage – Rough Rider
This Compressor is insane! It’s designed to CRUSH signlas and bring them right in your face. All the controls are very straight forward as far as compressors go but the color this Compressor is something unexpected. It adds a heavily saturated Low-Mid range to the signal giving it a huge amount of punch and girth. The compressor also works well if you’re ever trying to give something a “pulse”. This is a great compressor. Sometimes I’ll just put it on a channel and not even engage the compressor to get the saturation it provides. Here are the settings used on my Bass Bus.
Download Link: https://www.audiodamage.com/pages/free-downloads
Other Plugins Used In These Songs
Metric Halo – Thump
A plugin that adds percussive low-end to your kick drums or toms using synthesis. Tons of controls and option, excellent for making your kick drums bigger.
Download Link: http://mhsecure.com/metric_halo/products/software/thump.html
Semantic Audio – SAFE Plugins Series
These plugins are awesome and super straight forward. They remind of the Renaissance series by Waves. Super straight forward and easy to use and excellent graphical feedback. The pack comes with an EQ, Compressor, Reverb, and Distortion.
Download Link: http://www.semanticaudio.co.uk/projects/download/
Bob Perry Audio – BPA Gate
This is an awesome free gate plugin. It lets you use a sidechain to open the gate, and it has attack, hold, and release options as well as the noise floor. A Very flexible gate. Used on all my Toms in this session.
Download Link: https://www.bobperry-audio.com/shop/bob-perry-gate/
Mellowmuse – EQ1A
This EQ has some really cool color and gives you a wide range of gain to really mangle the sound of a track. It has 2 sweepable bands with Q controls plus 2 shelves and a high pass filter. Has a very clean and silky top end boost.
Download Link: http://www.mellowmuse.com/EQ1A.html
SoftTube – Saturation Knob
This little guy can really tame your transients with saturation. It also just be used to add grit. I use it on snare drum. The saturation is exactly what I’m looking with quick transient pops.
Download Link: https://www.softube.com/index.php?id=satknob
Melda Productions – MAutoPitch
This plugin is a simple “auto-tuner” that you can assign to be chromatic or to a major or minor scale. It can be quite helpful and correcting a singer who is just a hair out of tune. It’s fairly transparent unless you ramp up the correction speed and depth to more Kayne results. This plugin is actually part of a package that Melda Productions gives out for free with a TON of plugins.
Download Link: https://www.meldaproduction.com/MFreeFXBundle
Flux – Bitterweet
Need your transients to be louder or smoother? This plugin by Flux is a free transient designer that works wonders on making drums SMACK harder and making guitar picks sound less thumpy.
Download Link: https://fluxhome.com/project/bittersweet-v3/
DDMF – Colour EQ
DDMF makes some of the coolest plugins. I personally own the DDMF Directional EQ and I love it. The Colour EQ is great, it’s an EQ with an extra “feature”. The color sort lets you a shelf as a band. It’s quite an interesting effect. The EQ is also great for subtractive EQ and getting rid of what you don’t want in a track. It has 5 flexible bands as well as a high pass filter.
Download Link: https://ddmf.eu/freeware/
2nd Sense Audio – 2S EQ
This EQ is seriously impractical and not great. It gives you about 60Db of gain and the smallest increment can destroy your track. However I love how it handles low pass and high pass filters and it takes up a low CPU load. I use it primarily to band pass my delays and cut lows.
Download Link: https://2ndsenseaudio.com/plugins/
Wave Arts – Tube Sat Vintage
This is awesome. Great Saturation with a little bit of EQ. The mid-range is great for cutting mud out of kick drums.
Download Link: http://wavearts.com/products/plugins/tube-saturator-vintage/
FXPansion – DCAM Free Comp
This plugin is an awesome compressor with a GR (Gain Reduction) meter. The ratios are only selectable between 2:1, 4:1, and 10:1 which puts you in a corner between subtle and smash. There’s no control for release time but there is one for attack. This compressor works awesome on busses because it can act as “glue” to make things blend together a little easier.
Download Link: https://www.fxpansion.com/products/dcamfreecomp/
Togu Audio Line – TAL Reverb-4
When it comes to reverb plugins, there are very free that are offered for free that are worth downloading. This reverb is very washy and modulated. Makes for a great background wash for vocals. It really helps put tracks in a large ambient space.
Download Link: https://tal-software.com/products/tal-reverb-4
Voxengo – OldSkoolVerb
This is a great reverb plugin with lots of parameters. The impulse response is of a single algorithm but you can change parameters such as space, width, and predelay. The Reverb also includes dampening and EQ to get rid of the mud or sparkles from the reverb.
Download Link: http://www.voxengo.com/product/oldskoolverb/
Acon Digital – Reverb Solo
Simple. This plugin is crazy simple. Only two parameters. Wet/Dry Mix and the big knob that changes your reverb from a small bright room to a large dark hall. The small bright room side is great for adding room to guitars!
Voxengo – Tempo Delay
As far as free delay plugins there are only 2 that are really relevant this is the first. It doesn’t support so you have to put in the BPM, or beat, of your song manually if you want it to sync up rhythmically. It comes with parameters to add tremolo to the delayed signal which helps add a little more motion to any track. The plugin treats left and right differently so you can easily make some effective ping pong and other stereo delay effects.
Download Link: http://www.voxengo.com/product/tempodelay/
Vahalla DSP – Vahalla Freq Echo
This is the second delay plugin I would recommend. It has the ability to sync with your songs bpm through midi and you can modulate the pitch of the delay! No independent left and right parameters so the plugin primarily works in mono. But the modulation gives a great eery effect.
Download Link: https://valhalladsp.com/shop/delay/valhalla-freq-echo/
Vahalla DSP – Vahalla Freq Echo
The next few plugins are plugins I have on my master bus. This is a Mastering Compressor Plugin that does an amazing job at making punchy masters. It features a GR meter and can go anywhere from slamming compression to subtle glue. It also features a dry mix blend so you can easily do parallel compression!
Download Link: http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-kotelnikov/
Voxengo – SPAN
SPAN is hands down one of the best plugins you can download. It gives vital information for when your mixing and mastering. It tells you your peak values, RMS, gives you an awesome graphical display of frequencies. It’s a great utility.
Download Link: http://www.voxengo.com/product/span/
BOZ Digital Labs – Panipulator
This plugin is great because you can check your mixes in mono with one click of the mouse. It also lets you flip Left and Right information as well as flip polarity of the left and right channel. Very useful plugin to check your mixes.
Download Link: https://www.bozdigitallabs.com/product/panipulator/
Those are all plugins used in the most recent Queen City Session with Watchfrogs. Just remember you do not have to spend a lot of money to work as a mixing engineer! Never let money hold you back from doing what you want to do! All these plugins are free to download. Go get yourself some free plugins!